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Consumer Logistics

Surfing the Digital Wave

Peter J. Rimmer and Booi Hon Kam

Digital technology has changed the way we work, socialize, shop, play and learn. This book offers a stimulating exploration of how digitization has begun transforming the prevailing global logistics system into a self-service and sharing economy, and ultimately provides a vision of the monumental changes likely to overflow into the business landscape.
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Introduction: surf’s up

Surfing the Digital Wave

Peter J. Rimmer and Booi Hon Kam

Digital technology has rewritten the script for product consumption, changed business operations and altered the consumer's view of logistics. The rise of online purchasing and growth of omnichannels have repositioned the role of logistics in the consumer’s purchasing journey. Increasingly, consumers are playing a bigger role in helping themselves to achieve the 7Rs — right product, quantity, condition, place, time, cost and customer — to satisfy their desire to obtain products and services at the speed of now. Their growing contribution in the last-mile supply chain is the crux of 'Consumer Logistics'. Digitization, aided by the Internet of Things and 3D Printing, is further edging Consumer Logistics into the realm of crowdsourcing. This book captures the imminent change in supply chain practice by recapping the evolutionary journey of logistics management dating back to the 1950s and revealing challenges businesses face as consumers continue to expand their roles in the last-mile supply chain.

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Four great logistics waves

Surfing the Digital Wave

Peter J. Rimmer and Booi Hon Kam

Since the 1950s four great waves have surfaced as logistics evolved into a recognized academic discipline and structured professional practice. The key attributes of each of these waves — physical distribution management, business logistics, supply chain management and global logistics — are identified by detailing their contextual issues, distinctive characteristics, operational focus, prime technological drivers and operational strategies. Then a description is given of how one wave gave way to the next in each of the transitions. Arguably, the current wave of global logistics is losing momentum due to the overwhelming effect that digitization is having on influencing consumer behaviour and the consumer-purchasing journey. Evidence is adduced that global logistics may be receding, giving way to the fifth great wave of Consumer Logistics.

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Three disruptive digital trends

Surfing the Digital Wave

Peter J. Rimmer and Booi Hon Kam

Omnichannel Retailing, popularized by the exponential growth of mobile technologies, has added a new dimension to online shopping and reshaped the consumer-purchasing journey. This new phenomenon will continue to disrupt social behaviour, consumption and the production of goods and services in combination with the surge in the Internet of Things (associated with Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing) and 3D Printing. Highlighted in this discussion are the transformational influences of: (1) the 'smart phone' in the rise of Omnichannel Retailing; (2) the life-changing possibilities of the Internet of Things manifest in smart houses and smart cars; and (3) the perceptible effects of 3D Printing in the production of functional consumer goods leading to the rebirth of home production and appearance of the product ingredients superstore. The combined effects of these three disruptive trends upon the consumer-purchasing journey will engender greater consumer involvement in fulfilling the last-mile supply chain.

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Consumer logistics 1.0

Surfing the Digital Wave

Peter J. Rimmer and Booi Hon Kam

Logistics in the last mile of the supply chain has long had traces of self-service culture, exemplified by vending machines, supermarkets and sushi conveyor belts. Since businesses began to leverage the power of digital technologies to enlist the labour of consumers to serve themselves in airline self-check-in and parcel collection, this self-service practice has been amplified. This digital connectivity, derived from social media, has created 'consumer ubiquity', a phenomenon that allows businesses, typified by Uber, to enlist the assistance of consumers to serve other consumers. Exploring these crowdsourcing developments explain how logistics has evolved from the supplier–retailer-consumer chain, through the supplier–consumer chain with the onset of online shopping, to the supplier–consumer–consumer chain of Consumer Logistics. By offering an infinite number of options to materialize last-mile delivery Consumer Logistics has changed the operation of High Street stores, supermarkets and convenience stores and brought unprecedented agility, flexibility and cost-efficiency to supply-chain operations.

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Consumer logistics 2.0

Surfing the Digital Wave

Peter J. Rimmer and Booi Hon Kam

Advances in the Internet of Things and 3D Printing, coupled with the prevalence of Omnichannel Retailing, are outlined in detailing the operational implications involved in the extension from Consumer Logistics 1.0 to 2.0. An indicative assessment is then made of the likely micro adjustments at the business and city levels, and the macro changes at the global level. This task is undertaken by counter-posing five key features of global logistics and Consumer Logistics 2.0: (1) the roles of logistics service providers versus logistics service facilitators; (2) the characteristics of city logistics versus logistics cities; (3) the fortunes of economic regions versus smart cities; (4) the dismantling of low-cost production hubs versus the rise of home-based production; and (5) the global hub-and-spoke system versus gateway cities. Visible trends in these five areas demonstrate how the power of Consumer Logistics is exercised through the collective force of individuals or groups of consumers.

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A sixth wave: personal logistics?

Surfing the Digital Wave

Peter J. Rimmer and Booi Hon Kam

The evolutionary process of logistics is interpreted by drawing upon the tenets of structuration theory. Increased downward pressure exerted upon consumers by each succeeding great logistics wave in response to industrialization, mass consumption, informatization and globalization is seen as being analogous to that applied on a coiled spring. Digitization has released this accumulated pressure by transferring production and distribution facilities from businesses to consumers. This has allowed logistics practice under Consumer Logistics 1.0 and 2.0 to emerge from being a derived demand to an active agent that can act as a game changer. With the prospect of Omnichannel Retailing progressing to automatic shopping on the horizon, Consumer Logistics may devolve into a sixth wave — Personal Logistics. By then the expansion of automatic shopping will have enabled big business to re-assert its influence over the consumer-purchasing journey and the exertion of downward pressure upon the coiled spring will have resumed.